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  1. #1
    New Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Lafayette, La
    Kubota M, Small JD

    Default Bush Hogging on the side worth it?

    Family recently bought a used kubota M series for our small farm. With this heated/cooled cab plus radio, I think I can live in this thing. It's mainly used for moving hay and cutting the property every couple of months. Besides that, the tractor really doesnt get used much.

    Anyways, the idea of using it for additional income recently crossed my mind. Anyone has experience on a bushhog for hire type of deal? As of now Im thinking about advertising this service, but not sure if a side income would be worth the additional workload/expenses for the tractor.

  2. #2
    Gold Member BuzzardA91's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    West Granby CT
    JD 4105. 375 Backhoe. 2005 Polaris Ranger

    Default Re: Bush Hogging on the side worth it?

    I am wondering the same thing. I will need a trailer but would like to give it a shot. And hey, I will always have the trailer.....

  3. #3
    Elite Member foreman Etexas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Kubota (2010)M7040,(2012)M7040,New Holland(2004)TL100

    Default Re: Bush Hogging on the side worth it?

    The trick to make money don't have anything go wrong,be fair and don't sell yourself cheap...

  4. #4
    Super Star Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Northern Fingerlakes region of NY, USA
    Kubota L3830GST, B7500HST, BX2660

    Default Re: Bush Hogging on the side worth it?

    Some EXCELLENT advice which has been posted in several similar threads by Farmwithjunk (who ran/runs a ROW mowing business) on the subject:
    Quote Originally Posted by Farmwithjunk View Post
    I've got a cousin that keeps 4 or 5 tractors and operators running all summer doing just that. I'm about to start mowing for a property management company this summer. In past years I've mowed for several real estate agents.

    It CAN be profitable like any business. Or it can be a loosing proposition. You set the standard for which one .

    The dangers are plenty. Sink holes, hidden rocks, trash and junk hidden in the weeds, old fences, boards with nails, old car batteries, tires, and the list goes on. That all goes with the territory. Doubtful anyone will be willing to pay extra, even after the fact, for damage done. You need to figure potential losses in with your rates.

    You need as much liability insurance as you can reasonably afford. Have your insurance agent list their requirements as far as equipment.(saftey items) Make certain your tow vehicle is adaquate, well insured, and legal as a commercial vehicle. Plan on replacing mowers every few seasons. It will get trashed. Get a top-of-the-line heavy duty mower. Cheap "throw-aways" won't hold up to constant heavy use. That's where the difference in prices and quality comes forth.

    Don't take "marginally profitable jobs". If you can't make your rates, let someone else have the job. Never take a job at a reduced rate on the hope or promise of "I'll give you lots of work in the future if you do this one for next to nothing". You won't last long if you're a charitable organization.

    Some areas seem to prefer hourly rates. Some prefer a "by the job" set price. I prefer to work by the hour myself. Make it clear up front what you can do or CAN'T do. (i.e. mowing extremely steep banks and such)

    I've done better with older tractors that have a lower initial investment. That keeps my overhead lower. That in turn lets me work at a more reasonable rate. It's been my finding that people I work for don't give a hoot how proud I am of a shiney new tractor. All they want is a good job at a good price.

    Learn how to do your own tire repair. You will get flats. In rough conditions, you'll get many flats. (Think about foam-filling your tires)

    There's easier ways to make a living. Fortunately I'm not dependent on the income from my mowing to live on. It's just a way to make a few extra bucks.
    Quote Originally Posted by Farmwithjunk View Post
    What Do I Charge for Tractor Work? - Page 5
    I've withheld my opinion (to this point) on what I think you should charge for a number of reasons, very least of which is the fact it's almost impossible to tell someone else what they should charge for work in a part of the country that's unfamiliar to the second party....You should know your "local going rates" far better than I would....

    That said, here's a few thoughts.

    Under normal conditions, in grass/weeds, you should be able to (easily) mow in excess of 2 acres per hour with a 5' mower. In conditions such as you describe, expect less than half that (at best) ----- I mowed 10-3/4 acres of knee-high weeds in 3 hours, 45 minutes yesterday, with a 6' mower/40hp tractor, perfectly flat, clear field, no trees, no ditches, no obstructions. Average over 3-1/2 acres per hr. 5+ mph, and minimal lost time turning.... Same tractor/mower, I mowed a 2-1/2 acre building lot I just bought last week. Rocks, a couple downed trees, steep hillside on about 1/4-acre, all sorts of rain ruts, and weeds over my head. That took 3 hours and had me on the verge of Prozac.....:O If that wasn't my own property, I'd have never agreed to mow it.

    The type of mowing you're looking at is hard on equipment, harder on the OPERATOR. (X10 if you're on an open station tractor...) Personally, I wouldn't touch a job like that UNLESS I was charging a PREMIUM price, rather than a discount price. No matter how much "fun" you anticipate, no matter how much you want what will be your biggest job to date, You need to be able to walk away from the pay window at the end of the day with a decent amount of YOUR money left after expenses.

    Every time you fire up the tractor, you run a risk of SOMETHING breaking, or an unforeseen expense. Fuel, wear and tear, taxes/insurance (if you are "legal"), ect, take a slice of the pie. Rear tires for a tractor like yours will be in excess of $400 each. Easy to punch holes in 'em when mowing saplings. (BTDT too many times) So you take on THAT responsibility, you need to be rewarded for the effort.

    The land owner probably couldn't care any less what his property was mowed with, who does it, or what that person has to go through. His ONLY interest is getting it cut at a price that he likes. Most potential mowing customers have no clue what is involved, nor do they care. And their first thoughts on a "fair price" is usually well UNDER what the job is worth. MOST customers aren't happy unless they get a price that's probably too cheap to begin with.... BUT...The ONLY person that has to be "happy" about the amount of money to change hands when I'm done with a job is ME....

    All said and done, around where I live, the "going rate" for bush hogging work that's at the extreme limits of what a conventional tractor w/5'/6' medium duty hog can accomplish is in the neighborhood of $65. The type of work you describe is WORTH more than that, but in a semi-rural area, and with all the competition now days, that's about all it pays....ANOTHER reason why I usually walk away from that sort of job.... In conditions like that, I've been known to add $15 to $20 an hour to "going rate". Long story short, I'd want $80 hr (at least) Customer not willing to pay that much? He's entirely welcome to find someone else.

    There are numerous "mowing contractors" around here that work for what I'd best describe as "beer money". I DO NOT/WILL NOT try to compete with them. When I get a customer that wants the sort of prices you'd expect from "beer money mowers", I walk. Not wasting MY time trying to convert them to a more reasonable way of thinking.... Not every phone call is a job I want. I've turned down a couple that would have been among the biggest I've ever been offered. No regrets. (One, the eventual winning bidder, ended up stuck in a ravine and had to hire a 'dozer to come drag him out. He lost his behind on the job!)

    You MIGHT make a few bucks on a job of this nature, but eventually, if you keep it up, you'll get the one job that makes you question why you would ever want to do this sort of thing. Remember, when you're pricing work, it's THAT job (the 1 in 1000 big loser) that you're protecting yourself from with EVERY bid you submit.

    OK...Final thoughts....I get roughly 1/3rd of the bids I submit. (We stay swamped, so that's enough.) In 3 full season, in some of the worst economic times in memory, we've managed to stay very profitable and very BUSY. So I'm thinking I'm doing SOMETHING right..... IMHO, I wouldn't touch that 15 acres unless I was getting MY price, which based on description, I'd guess to be around $1200. (Were it 15 acres of grass & weeds, you're looking more towards $400 in this area) And even at that price, I'm not exactly licking my chops to get involved in that sort of mowing.

    Gotta make money....If I was wanting to break even, I'd stay at home and watch Andy Griffith reruns. If I was content to make just a few bucks an hour, McDonalds offers benefits....
    Quote Originally Posted by Farmwithjunk View Post
    Overhead.....It can kill a business. At the very least, it can be the difference between just barely being competitive, or, turning a healthy profit while pricing your work at an attractive rate.

    There are a BUNCH of expenses that are basically the same for all of us. Fuel and taxes come to mind there. Insurance can vary. This season, I'll have 5 tractors/mowers, 2 truck/trailers, and 6 employees operating full time and my insurance is only a few bucks more than what has been quoted in this thread for a much smaller operation. Billable hour for billable hour, my insurance cost is probably 1/2 of what has been mentioned by some. 2 tractors are older models with a replacement value of 1/4th of what a NEW one the same size would run. Still, I'd match them against anyones NEW tractors for reliability and economy of operation. Trucks are a few years old. The 3 newer tractors and mowers weren't bought until there was no way around it. They had work lined up, contracts signed sealed and delivered before shelling out that money. I refuse to go buy a bunch of new equipment, THEN go out and try to find a way to pay for it. We do ALL our maintenance and repairs in house if they aren't warranty repairs, even tire repairs. I COULD pay $100 an hour shop time OR pay an employee $17.50 an hour to stand and watch oil drain out of a tractor. I choose the cheaper route. Since this is a seasonal business we're talking about, there's PLENTY of off-season time to do maintenance and repairs. Most of my employees are full time, year 'round. They spend time in the shop during the winter changing oil, fixing little details, and in general, keeping my equipment away from the dealers much more expensive shop rates. In that regard, I'M an employee too. No ski trips, no sitting around watching TV all winter. I'm in the shop too, replacing seals, changing oil, welding cracks in mower decks, or whatever needs attention. Sure, that's not PROFITABLE, but it's not a dead expense either.

    A small 1 or 2 man operation should not reasonably expect to run like MicroSoft. Smaller operations can't operate at the same economy of scale as a larger business. You can make a good living, but it's absurd to expect a one horse operation to allow the "CEO" to live like a king. There are a few hugely profitable small business ventures.....Mowing weeds ISN'T one of them. Keep your expectations in line with reality.

    It's not always what you MAKE, it's often about what you SAVE.

    It's WONDERFUL having all new tractors, trucks, mowers, paying someone else to change your oil. It's far more WONDERFUL to have plenty of business, happy customers, and turn a healthy profit, all the while making your competitors scratch their heads and wonder how you can work so cheap.

    I avoid 1 or 2 hour mowing jobs like the plague. Those are hauling jobs with a few minutes of mowing thrown in for effect. Most of my work is in the 10 hr to 40 hr range. Those little jobs just aren't that profitable and they're an aggrevation. However, hauling time to and from the job is billable hours. SOMEONE has to pay for that, why not the PAYING CUSTOMER?

    No customer of mine gives a hoot how new or high tech my equipment is. They want a good job at the lowest price. Period.

    IN the end, I can mow with a 45hp/6' mower at $50 to $55 an hour and turn a nice dollar. 15' batwing behind a 95hp tractor for $110 to $125 an hour and pocket 1/3rd of that.

    And best of all.... The more contractors that don't live by the low overhead theory, the higher the "going rate" seems to be. Then, the easier it is for me to get all the work I want, and the less I have to trim my prices to stay competitive.
    Quote Originally Posted by Farmwithjunk View Post
    I will say this....If you've got a prospective job where you KNOW the property owner, you KNOW the property, you DO NOT have to load up and haul to the job, and you have enough experience to feel comfortable doing the job, why not....

    Just keep in mind that the second you start to haul equipment to a job, you're driving a commercial vehicle. The LEO's/DOT guys don't give a hoot that you're doing it as much as a way to have a little fun, or that it's a one time deal.....You need proof and proper....Insurance, license, ect... Is it worth a couple hundred bucks (maybe) at the risk of THOUSANDS in fines, possible vehicle impoundment, a visit with a judge?

    There are so many well camouflaged "trap doors" you can step through doing this sort of work, it's ridiculous. Odds are you'll avoid MOST of them. Question is, what's it worth to you if you only step through ONE? Is the reward worth the risk?

    I know of several former small time operators from my area that would most likely tell you it's NOT worth the risk. They've already been there, done that, and lost their butts in the process.
    Aaron Z
    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
    Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

  5. #5
    Gold Member BuzzardA91's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    West Granby CT
    JD 4105. 375 Backhoe. 2005 Polaris Ranger

    Default Re: Bush Hogging on the side worth it?

    Thanks Aaron. Great responses.

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